Deadline is reporting that SNL has four top candidates to add to the cast as featured players for the fall. While NBC has yet to announce the news, the report says that Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, and Noël Wells are "heavily rumored to land the coveted SNL spots." All four are performers from Los Angeles's Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and each one has a series of popular web videos to his or her name. Milhiser is a member of the video sketch group Serious Lunch, Wells is known for her solo videos, and Mooney and Bennett both come from the sketch group Good Neighbor, which also includes standup Nick Rutherford and filmmaker Dave McCary. SNL hiring Mooney and Bennett from the same sketch group harkens back to the show adding three from the group The Lonely Island in 2005: cast member Andy Samberg and writer/directors Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.
UPDATE: Michael Patrick O'Brien, who's been a writer on the show since 2009, is also joining the cast as a featured player. This brings the number of new cast members up to five, the most added in one season since 1995, when Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, David Koechner, Cheri Oteri, and Nancy Walls were all hired.
Mooney and Bennett recently shot a Comedy Central pilot with Good Neighbor called The Good Neighbor Show, about a local late night show that's falling apart at the seams. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay produced the pilot via their company Gary Sanchez. Deadline writes that the Comedy Central deal complicates the pair's SNL hiring but that "there is an effort to work things out."
There's no word on whether more performers than these four will be joining the cast before SNL's 39th season starts up next month, but this is definitely the biggest transitional year for the sketch show in over a decade, with these four performers entering and Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis having departed at the end of last season. Seth Meyers is also expected to leave late in the fall to prep for his takeover as host of Late Night in February.
UPDATE: SNL has hired a third member of Good Neighbor, Dave McCary, as a director.
Check out some videos and more info about the new featured players below:
A graduate of USC, Beck Bennett met Kyle Mooney and Nick Rutherford there, which led to them forming Good Neighbor. The group has performed sketch shows at UCB and around Los Angeles, toured the country, and created dozens of viral videos. He also has his own solo YouTube channel and has appeared in some popular commercials.
An episode of Bennett's web series, Fresh Perspectives, in which he plays a deadpan newsman interviewing children about current events.
Bennett plays an eerily similar role to Fresh Perspectives in the AT&T "It's Not Complicated" ads, which were directed by SNL's Jorma Taccone. The AT&T folks claim they're not familiar with his web series.
An episode from Bennett and Rutherford's series, Theater of Life, in which they set up lawn chairs on the beach and make fun of passersby.
The Good Neighbor sketch, "Toast."
Selected as part of the Just for Laughs comedy festival's New Faces showcase last month, John Milhiser was a UCB New York performer before relocating to the west coast, where he's been performing on the Maude team Tut at UCB LA. He's a member of the NYC-based sketch group Serious Lunch, and runs the "baguetting" photo blog Baguette-Me-Nots with fellow Serious Lunch member Tim Bierbaum.
Milhiser in the Serious Lunch sketch "Facialique."
Milhiser in the Serious Lunch video "Bad Boy."
"Clap It Up," the Step Up parody Milhiser wrote, directed, and starred in for Lorne Michaels's company's YouTube channel, Above Average.
Like Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney is a USC grad and a member of Good Neighbor, who counts Adam McKay, Louis C.K., and Steven Spielberg as fans. Mooney was a writer on the first season of Comedy Central's Nathan for You, guest starred on Parks and Rec, and had a recurring role on the short-lived Sports Show with Norm Macdonald as Macdonald's nephew Kyle.
Mooney as his emotional Southern California surfer character Todd.
Mooney as hacky standup character Bruce Chandling.
Mooney doing an awkward man-on-the-street segment at a MLB game.
Known for her character videos that have racked up millions of hits on YouTube, Noël Wells is a performer on the UCB LA Maude team New Money and has appeared in numerous videos for CollegeHumor. She does great impressions of Zooey Deschanel, Michelle Bachmann, Justin Bieber, and Kristen Stewart.
Wells's sketch reel.
Wells as Zooey Deschanel hosting a talk show.
Wells as Stephen King's Carrie in the CollegeHumor video "Housemates of Horror."
Michael Patrick O'Brien
A writer on SNL since 2009, O'Brien is being promoted to featured player this season. He's best known for his excellent web series 7 Minutes in Heaven, in which he interviews (and inevitably tries to kiss) a celebrity in a closet.
7 Minutes in Heaven — Ty Burrell
7 Minutes in Heaven — Amy Poehler
O'Brien as the doorman in Justin Timberlake's "Five-Timer's Club" monologue on SNL, a role played by Conan O'Brien in the original '80s sketch